Silver Springs is in Marion County, Florida, not too far from Orlando and very near Ocala. The wildlife park is a great place for small children and anyone who is interested in nature (but I'd leave the teen-agers at Wild Waters, the affiliated water park that's next door to Silver Springs). It would definitely be worth the separate admission price not to have to deal with bored teenagers.
The park has never been at all crowded when I've been there, which of course in one way is a shame, but also makes it an attractive place for a relaxing afternoon. On a really beautiful day in December, we took my in-laws there. They were visiting from England and my mother-in-law really wanted to see an alligator before she left. As you can see, she saw plenty of them.
I love alligators. The recent gator attacks have upset and horrified me, but they haven't made me love alligators any less. In the town where I live there is a pond with a small island on it just a few yards from shore where the gators normally bask. A couple of them have grown quite large and I have seen some of them lying around on the shore. One alligator was put down after devouring a dog and then a fellow alligator; it had grown huge---at least 12 feet long.
No one is really sure why the alligators are being so aggressive toward humans, but of course years and years of increasing alligator populations and close proximity is doubtless causing them to lose their fear of humans. Paging Steve Erwin! . What's happening here, Steve? (He is totally one of my heroes.)
In the meantime, "Peb's Garden," this beautiful and fascinating Florida-related site* has a useful guide for avoiding attacks by alligators. A lot of them are simple common sense, but are the sort of common sense that is easy to forget. There are ponds and lakes all over the peninsula, so remembering not to run or walk with your pet near a pond or a lake can be tricky. But "Marsh Bunny's notes" offer good advice. While walking with a friend, I once almost stepped on a five foot long alligator that was basking in the sun on a grassy bank at a pond that's right in the middle of the University of Florida campus (Gainesville, Florida).
At Silver Springs you can view alligators at a safe distance and from behind a glass shield. Alligators that are not interested in attacking or eating you don't really do a lot. They just lie there looking strangely flattened out. These didn't even seem to be breathing, they were so still. Nevertheless, I am fond of them. I think everyone secretly feels that it is an honor and a distinction to share their own patch of turf with these ancient and---I can't help feeling---venerable (if pea-brained) creatures.
This little guy looks cute and harmless, like an extra-large lizard. His size in relation to the leaves shows how small he is.
He was hanging out in the woods near "Lake Alice" in the center of the University of Florida campus, a place which seems to be particularly appealing to alligators. We didn't disturb him; the last time someone I knew messed with a baby alligator (it was on Captiva or Sanibel, I think), the mother suddenly rose up out of nowhere (and they are surprisingly tall when they stand). Thankfully, she was on the other side of the riverbank---because she was hauling ass.
The other reason I didn't mess with him is that I like having a full set of fingers.
Alachua County, alligator, baby alligator, Florida, Florida blog, Florida photoblog, Florida photographs, Florida photography, Floridian, Gainesville, North Florida, North Florida photoblog, University of Florida